News Column

Gilbert Theater gears up for new season

May 13, 2013


May 13--Gilbert Theater is opening its 20th season with a "Rent" party.

The downtown Fayetteville theater is presenting the musical starting Sept. 20. The show kicks off a season that includes the holiday standby "A Christmas Carol," some original works and a little Shakespeare.

"I think we've got a good mix," said Gilbert Artistic Director Robyne Parrish. "It's something for everyone, but keeping that edgy Gilbert feel."

"Rent," which won a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1996, is about a group of struggling young artists and musicians trying to make it in New York's Lower East Side. The play was written by Jonathan Larson and is based on Giacomo Puccini's opera "La Boheme." The hugely popular musical ran for 12 years on Broadway, won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was adapted for film with most of the original cast.

The Gilbert is helping fund the play through the Power 2 Give project. The initiative, administered by the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County, allows donors to give to specific projects online.

Parrish said she thought "Rent" was a good project for Power 2 Give.

"It will require a band, and we want to be able to offer a stipend for those musicians," Parrish said.

The fundraising goal is $2,000 and will help pay for the set, props, costumes, supplies and gas and food for the artists.

After "Rent," the theater will present its annual holiday show, Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." The play is set to debut Nov. 29.

Next up is an original adaptation of "Peter Pan" called "Pan: A Neverland Tale." Many of the young actors in the theater's Gilbert Glee ensemble will perform in the show, which opens Jan. 31.

"We had a lot of kids show up for auditions this year, so we said, 'We have to do something for the kids,' " Parrish said. The show also will include adult actors.

Going from comedy to tragedy, the Gilbert will follow "Pan" with "Macbeth." The play opens March 28.

For its final show of the season, the Gilbert will present two shows featuring the theater's repertory company, "A Company of Wayward Saints" and "Sherlock the Sleeping Detective."

"A Company of Wayward Saints," written by George Herman, is a "commedia dell'arte" play acted by performers in masks.

"It's about a troupe of wayward actors traveling around the world trying to get home because they're sick of each other," Parrish said. "By the end of the play, they're reinvigorated and realize why they do what they do."

"Sherlock the Sleeping Detective" will be written by Gilbert regular James Dean and concerns an investigator with the pesky habit of falling asleep at the most inopportune times.

Next summer, the theater will present an original play by artist-in-residence Stephen Miles called "Hollow Men." Also, Gilbert Glee will perform a work in June.

While the theater is gearing up for its 2013-14 season, one play remains in the current season. Beginning June 5, it will present "Groucho Marx: A Life in Revue," based on the life of the legendary comedian.

The play stars and is directed by Jeremy Czarniak, a Pittsburgh-based actor.

"I'm excited about it," Parrish said. "(Czarniak) has done the show at least half a dozen times."

Staff writer Rodger Mullen can be reached at or 486-3561.


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